February 7, 2007

Harry and David

And the men behind the brand are...
Harry and David Holmes

If one were to list the types of businesses best suited to withstand the Great Depression of the 1930s selling fancy pears would not be on the first page, or likely any page. Harry and David Holmes, both Ivy League-educated, did not need to have their bleak prospects pointed out to them.

Harry, born in 1890, and David, born a year later had returned to Oregon from Cornell in 1914 to take over the family pear orchard in Medford. The star of the orchard was a giant DuComice pear that was served at elegant tables in New York and Europe. The brothers built a steady and reliable income from their pear business, which was threatened directly when the Stock Market crashed in 1929.

Desperate for anything to save the orchard the brothers decided to try and sell gift boxes of fruit by mail. At the suggestion of an advertising friend, G. Lynn Sumner, Harry and David prepared 15 sample packages and sent them by special messenger to some of the most powerful corporate leaders in New York City. An hour later the brothers had their first order; it was from Walter Chrysler. The 15 sample fruit boxes pulled in a total of 467 orders.

Harry and David Holmes were in the mail order fruit business, battling the local produce stand. In their first year they sold 6,000 gift boxes and the next year another 15,000. In 1937 Harry and David founded the Fruit-of-the-Month Club. Each of the millions of catalogs they mailed featured the brothers’ images, clad in a friendly plaid shirt. By the time they died in the 1950s Harry and David were more recognizable to most Americans than their local greengrocer.

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